Child Food Poverty

Your rights and food poverty in Wales

The Right to Food

Everyone has a right to adequate food, including children and young people. This is a human right guaranteed by Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and a right guaranteed to children by Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child . You (if you live alone), or your family should be able to access food and have enough money to buy sufficient food.[1]

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees that children have the right to adequate food, so they can develop in the best possible way. The government should make sure that you (if you live alone) or your family can afford to buy food so that you do not go hungry.

Food should be affordable to everyone. If you live alone, you should be able to have an adequate diet – one that meets your nutritional needs – without affecting your other basic needs like, for example, paying rent, or paying for travel to work, or buying medicines if you need them. If you live with your family, your family should be able to afford adequate food without affecting the ability of your parents or carers to meet other necessary household expenses..

The right to food is important for other rights, such as right to health. It is also very important for the right to education. If you are hungry, this might make it hard for you to concentrate in lessons.

[1] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – General Comment no. 12, Right to Food

How can I find out more about the right to food?

There are different places you can find out about the right to food.

The Children’s Right 2 Food Charter from the Food Foundation sets out how your right to food can be made real.

You can find out more about the right to food in the UK here:

Click the image to download the Charter as a PDF.

Food poverty and food insecurity

The government has a responsibility to ensure that the right to food is fulfilled. This includes the Welsh Government here in Wales. However, this doesn’t always happen in practice.

Across the UK, more and more people are being pushed into what is called ‘food poverty’ or ‘food insecurity’, which means they cannot afford to buy food. This includes young people, and families with children. This means that many young people, children or their families don’t have access to sufficient affordable, nutritious food.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made things worse. A survey by the Food Foundation found that 14% of UK families with children have experienced food insecurity since March 2020.

You should have access to food, whether you live alone or with your family and you or your parents/carers should be able to afford food while meeting other basic needs like heating your home.

This isn’t the case for lots of families in Wales at the moment. Lots of children and young people aren’t having their right to food met. Things like ‘austerity measures’ (government policies to cut public spending), welfare reform (UK government changes to welfare support for the poorest in society), low wages and insecure working conditions have pushed more and more people into food poverty in the UK.



Families on low incomes and in receipt of benefits, are at particular risk of falling into food poverty or becoming food insecure. Disabled people can be particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.


The use of food banks has increased hugely since 2012. Food banks are charitable organizations that provide food, and sometimes other basic hygiene and toiletry supplies, to people in need free of charge. Families with children make up over half of food bank users.[1]

According to the Trussell Trust, which is one of the organisations which runs food banks and parcels:

  • 1 in 6 people referred to food banks are in work.
  • There was a 5,146 percent increase in emergency food parcels distributed between 2008 and 2018.
  • Between April-September 2020, 70,393 emergency food packages were distributed during the pandemic.


[1] Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute

What should the Welsh Government do about food poverty?

In Wales, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been made part of Welsh law (this is not the case for the UK as a whole).

In 2011 the National Assembly for Wales (now called the ‘Welsh Parliament’ or ‘Senedd’) passed a law called the Rights of Children and Young Person’s (Wales) Measure. This is often just called ‘the Measure’. This is an important law which introduces something called the ‘due regard’ duty.

The ‘due regard’ duty means that Ministers in the Welsh Government have to think about the rights of children when they are developing any laws or policies for Wales. Whenever the Welsh Government introduces a proposal for a law for the Welsh Parliament to approve, or when it wants to introduce a new policy which will affect children, it has to carry out something called a Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA). The CRIA will explain whether the new law will affect the rights of children, and in what ways. One of the issues that Ministers will need to think about when they prepare a CRIA is how any new law or policy will affect the right to food. 

What is being done to help tackle food poverty?

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Free School Meals


If you are in full time school, including sixth form, and you receive welfare support payments, or your parents or carers receive this on your behalf, you may be entitled to free school meal.

You, or you parents or carers, can make a request for free school meals. A relative or  support worker or someone from the Citizens’ Advice can also make a request for you. This can be done by collecting a form from your school or be speaking to your local council. A contact number for your local council should be available from the council website, or you can get this from Citizen’s Advice.

Your school should make sure that it has enough forms, and staff available who understand the progress so that they can help you or your parent/carer to apply for free school meals.

Your local council might get in touch with your parent, guardian or carer to ask if they want to apply for free school meals for you.

If you go to school in Wales and are eligible for free school meals, you should be provided with lunch during school holidays up to Easter 2021.

During the pandemic, the Welsh Government expects schools to provide lunch for pupils who normally receive free school meals.

Your school or your local council can provide you or your family with vouchers for local supermarkets, give the money to your parent or guardian to buy your lunches, or arrange for food parcels to be delivered to your home. The food provided should be as healthy and nutritious as possible. The cash value of food vouchers is £3.90 per child, per day, or direct payments of £19.50 can be made so families can buy food themselves.

For more information see: Revised guidance for schools in Wales: supporting children eligible for free school meals


Which approach has each Local Authority in Wales taken:

Local Authority Approach
Blaenau Gwent Country Borough Council Bank payments
Bridgend County Borough Council Food parcel
Caerphilly County Borough Council Food parcel
Carmarthenshire County Council  
Ceredigion County Council Voucher scheme or bank payments
City and County of Swansea Bank payments or food parcel
City of Cardiff Council E-voucher scheme and bank payments
Conwy County Borough Council Bank payments
Denbighshire County Council Bank payments
Flintshire County Council Bank payments
Gwynedd Council Bank payments
Isle of Anglesey County Council Bank payments
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Food parcel
Monmouthshire County Council  
Neath Port Talbot Council Bank payments
Newport City Council Voucher scheme
Pembrokeshire County Council Bank payments
Powys County Council Bank payment and voucher scheme
Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council Bank payments
Torfaen County Borough Council Bank payments
Vale of Glamorgan Council Voucher scheme
Wrexham County Borough Council  
The Free Breakfast Scheme

If you go to primary school in Wales that is maintained by a local authority, breakfast should be provided free of charge at school. According to the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013, the breakfast should be provided before the start of the school day so that you have enough time to choose your breakfast, eat it without rushing and then start your normal school activities.

Your parent or guardian should ask the school for free breakfasts so that you can receive them.

Healthy Start Programme

If you are pregnant and under 18, you can qualify for the Welsh Government’s Healthy Start programme even if you don’t receive any other support payments. The Healthy Start programme provides vouchers to help buy food.  

If your mum is pregnant or has a child under four years old, and your family gets income support, universal credit, child tax credit or other support payments, they may be able to get free vouchers every week to spend on milk, fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried, and tinned pulses, and infant formula milk. You can also get free vitamins.

You can fill in an online application here:

Or, email the application form

You can use the Healthy Start vouchers in any registered shop like supermarkets, corner shops and pharmacies. Find a registered shop near you:

Holiday Provision

There are holiday clubs available in different local areas that provide food, fun activities and support to families. Some of these are provided by food banks, such as the Blaenau Gwent food bank.

During the school holidays, when Free Breakfast in Primary Schools and Free School Meals are not available, some families struggle to afford or access food that provides a healthy diet. Children might feel isolated or not have access to different activities.

The ‘Food and Fun’ School Holiday Enrichment Programme provides food and nutrition education, physical activity, enrichment lessons and healthy meals to children in areas of social deprivation during school summer holidays. This might be available at your school.

Food Banks

The Trussell Trust

The Trussell Trust runs food banks across the UK. People who want to use a food bank have to be referred by a professional or organisation like children’s centres, housing associations, health and social workers, and Citizens’ Advice.

People referred will be given a food voucher which can be swapped at their nearest food bank for an emergency food parcel. These have to contain a minimum of three days’ nutritionally balanced food.

To get a referral, you or your parent can call Citizens’ Advice for help at 0808 2082138. This is confidential, free and open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. You can also speak to your local Citizens’ Advice – search for your local citizens’ advice.

You or your parent can also get in touch with your nearest food bank. They can explain how to get a voucher. Find a food bank near you.

The local council might be able to tell you or your parent how to get a referral to a food bank. Find your local authority.

Independent food banks

These exist all across Wales in places like community centres and places of religious worship, and don’t always require referrals. Use this map to find an independent food bank in your area.

Support for BAME communities

The EYST BAME Helpline for Wales can provide advice, signpost and refer to relevant organisations and services and provide information in a range of community languages concerning the use of food banks or other support for those from Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority communities who are experiencing food poverty, including Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Hindi and Urdu:

Open Monday – Friday 10.30am – 2.30pm

Call: 0300 2225720

Text: 07537 432416

Local Area Coordinators

If you live in Swansea, you and your family may be able to speak to a Local Area Coordinator when you have a problem. There is no eligibility criteria or assessment and they can help you access support and services. You can find out contact details here.

“One family needed baby items, like nappies, food and milk as well as cleaning and household items. The school welfare officer contacted a Local Area Coordinator for help as these items are not always provided at food banks. The community were able to provide a large number of items and a supermarket also helped to provide cleaning and household products”

Families in food poverty- Covid -19 Hafod, Landore, Plasmarl and Parc Avenue


Child Food Poverty in Wales Event

As part of our project on child food poverty, on 19 May 2021, the Children’s Legal Centre Wales held an online event to promote awareness and discussion on how to address this issue.


Professor Simon Hoffman, Observatory on the Human Rights of Children

Katie Palmer, Food Sense Wales

Beth Rhodes, Young Food Ambassador for the Children’s Right 2 Food Campaign

Ellie Harwood, Child Poverty Action Group

Key Points:

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Improve how we measure impact and progress
  • A clear delivery plan and overall strategy is required to address the issue of child food poverty in Wales.
  • Move to a target-based approach that is rights-aligned.
  • Establish more detailed indicators of progress that take children’s voices into account and can capture lived experiences.
Bring children into discussions and decision-making
  • The best way to understand the issues relating to child food poverty is to talk to children and young people.
  • The issues are very complex and responses should start from the perspective of the child.
  • Children and young people should be involved in issues that affect them with tangible outcomes from their involvement, which can be key to meaningful engagement.
  • Effective engagement is costly and labour intensive requiring additional dedicated resources.
  • Work with the Youth Parliament.
Consideration of children’s rights in policy decisions
  • Policy requires cross-sectoral decision-making.
  • Provision in schools is only part of the picture in poverty reduction.
  • Ministers may not realise how child food poverty is relevant to their work.
  • There should be a minister with the issue of child food poverty within their portfolio.
  • Impact assessments should be used to introduce thinking about tackling child food poverty to policy decision-making.
  • Child food poverty should be addressed as part of setting objectives for work under the Future Generations legislation?
  • A clear link needs to be made between food and the climate change/environmental agenda
Free School Meals
  • Many children experience poverty but are not eligible for free school meals.
  • The scope for free school meal eligibility should be increased.
  • There remains a stigma around free school meals.
  • Children and young people eligible for free school meals should be able to choose from the same menu as their peers, eat lunch in the same areas as their peers who bring packed lunches, and have the choice about how and when to spend a meals allowance.
  • Children should feel included and empowered: steps like those above would help ensure the dignity of children and young people.
Universal Basic Income
  • It will be interesting to see how UBI contributes toward tackling food poverty and food insecurity.
  • There is limited evidence that UBI helps reduce poverty as effectively as, for example, improving access to existing social security entitlements.
  • A blanket approach like UBI has the potential to worsen inequality and disadvantage people with different needs.
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